Relationship goals I learned from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

When I was 14, I was lent a chartreuse little copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, long before it became a post-Harry Potter vehicle for Emma Watson, and long before it became Tumblr meme scribbled amongst the cosmos. No, back then it was, as my friend put it, “every alternative kid’s must-read,” and through Charlie’s letters and his ragtag team of misfits I learned a lot about friendship, repressing traumatic memories and, you know, love.

I guess it’s fair to say that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an unconventional #relationshipgoals pick because every relationship we witness in that story is a full-blown disaster. Actually, it’s impossible to read, or watch, or navigate that story without venturing into some dark territory, so we’re choosing to tread lightly here. Still, through all of Perks’ adolescent romantic pain (and joy, lest we forget!) I think we all come out of the other side of the tunnel a better person. So this is everything Perks of Being a Wallflower taught me about love, prolonged break-ups, and kiss drama.

Don’t just passively worship, follow your feelings and actively pursue (unless someone emphatically tells you otherwise)

Charlie’s adoration of Sam is the heart of the book and quasi on-and-off reciprocated throughout the novel. Initially, she tells him not to have feels for her, but she eventually admits that what she really wants is for someone who loves her to be their real self, and vice versa.

“I don’t want to be somebody’s crush,” she explains later. “If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too.”

Sam basically points to the idea that you can’t just selflessly worship someone all the time and worry about their feels, their needs, or what you believe their feels and needs are. Sometimes you have to consider your needs and feelings, and sometimes you have to be active about expressing said needs and feelings. PARTICIPATE!

Kiss who you want to kiss

In this same monologue, Sam talks about doing what you want to do and, well, not doing what you want to do, particularly when it comes to kissing. Sam, incidentally, gives Charlie his first kiss because she wants to ensure that the first person he kisses is from someone who loves him. Things get messier from there.

Truth be told, Charlie probably shouldn’t have let Mary Elizabeth pull him into her whole weird Billie Holiday seduction. Or letting Patrick kiss him as he mired in post-break-up sadness. Sam’s overall rationale is that in accepting these kisses, Charlie wasn’t being honest, and subsequently, he wasn’t being a good friend. Likewise, when Charlie chose to kiss who he thought was the prettiest girl in the room AKA Sam, he was being his most truthful and following his heart. Although, that said…

Well actually—there are times when you should practice discretion about the kissing thing

Charlie was very much dating Mary Elizabeth during that scene, and that kiss momentarily imploded his entirely life, driving a wedge between him and the entire group. I mostly can agree with Sam that it’s important to be true to your emotions and la la la, but um, that would’ve been a ideal time for Charlie to lie and to kiss his technical girlfriend. Or you know how you avoid these issues in the first place?

Don’t prolong a break-up with someone if you really don’t see it working out

Like, if they’re going to be condescending about you gifting them Catcher in the Rye (which is really sweet of you, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), it’s probably not meant to be. Letting the situation drag on is going to hurt everyone in the long run, although it will make for a hilarious montage in the movie, tbh.

And, of course, we accept the love we think we deserve

In the book, Bill says this to Charlie after Charlie sees his sister get hit by her boyfriend. In the movie, Charlie also says it to Sam after she laments that all her friends accept ill-treatment from their S.O.s or otherwise. And in real life my best Rutger guy friend said this to me in response to, I don’t know, probably some problem I had with my ex, and then I unceremoniously broke his heart later because I wasn’t done dating monsters, but this reinforces the message.

When you’re in your teens (and 20s too, I suppose) you tend to struggle with things like low self esteem, social awkwardness, or maybe just an overpowering infatuation that make you accept sub par treatment. People get trapped in it all the time, because they think they’re not worth more than that. Let me tell you, though, whether it’s romantic or otherwise, you are deserving of a love that is honest, true, and makes you feel like you’re—what’s the word I’m looking for?—infinite.

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